Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley
"Adrift" is apt: the author took on a challenging format and offers some true excellence in character writing and worldbuilding, but the experience of reading this book is, for better or worse, as if you're just as adrift, confused, and purposeless as main character Hallie.
Hallie's doing the dissipated youth finding herself routine in Paris. But before we find that out, we have to wade through some future revolutionary setup with time-travellers who want to go back and change the past to resolve the blighted dystopian future they're living in. This is the frame story and the plot, but Hallie doesn't figure out where she fits into it until extremely late in the game. Instead, she's working and drinking her life away in a bar, hanging out with people who do the same, and - unwillingly at first - hopping through time in the cellar.
There's a lot to like at a technical level. Swift conveys that dreamy/nightmarish feeling and atmosphere of being 20-something and finding your group on the road, living in the moment, but with an uneasy awareness that the moment must pass and you're more than where you're stuck now. Paris and the group of international workers at Hallie's bar are conveyed with detailed world-building excellence, including what (as far as my limited French can tell) is accurate and characteristic uses of French.
If you think of this as a literary novel, it deserves a high rating. Dreamy, evocative, endlessly confusing, but in a way that hints at careful construction, it's an effective deep-dive into character. But the frame story plot lags as Hallie finds herself, and there are too many mysteries held for too long for it to be effective as a genre work. If you need fast, thriller pacing, spicy romance, or intricate and engage SFF goings-on to enjoy a book, this is not the story for you. If you're happy to invest some time, drift through the story, and maybe reminisce about (or look forward to) your own dissipated youthful travels, this offers much to appreciate. Just sit back and let it flow.
As I said in my recent status update, I loved this book. The Carol Burnett show was such a staple growing up in the 70's; it wasn't until I started reading/listening to this book that I realised how much I missed the kind of comedy she and her cast served up every week.
The book is broken into individual anecdotes that cover her early life and career. Almost all of them are light, interesting, amusing and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. A couple towards the end will bring tears as she relates particularly heartbreaking moments, but mostly the tears are from laughing so hard.
I don't know how well this book's promise would translate for anyone who hadn't at least watched a few episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, but for those that have and enjoyed it, this is a welcome trip down memory lane.
Burnett herself reads the book, and she does an amazing job. At no point did it ever feel like she was 'reading' anything; her delivery is as natural as if she was right there talking to you.
I'm thrilled to find out she released another book last year, In Such Good Company. All behind the scenes stories from the show. It's taking all my self control to not check it out and immediately start listening, but I'm going to make myself listen to a book from my shelves first.
Anyone my generation or older who grew up in the US watching TV knows who Carol Burnett is; she had a comedy and musical variety show that ran for 11 years in the late 60's-early 70's. Two of her co-stars were Harvey Korman and Tim Conway and together they performed some of the most hilarious sketches ever. So hilarious they often couldn't help breaking scene and laughing themselves silly; for me, these were always the best bits. Watching Tim Conway torture Harvey Korman as he struggles to keep it together made me laugh until I cried.
It still does, as it turns out. I started this book on a whim; I wasn't all that confident I'd like it much, because I wasn't sure what kind of 'reflections' Carol Burnett had in mind to share. Turns out she's sharing the funniest ones; I've not laughed so hard in years! Some of them were so good I had to come home and make MT listen to them. (Fortunately, the audio's chapters are almost spot on with the individual anecdotes, making it super easy to jump around and find the ones you want to torture your spouse with.) He'd never heard of Carol Burnett and wasn't sure he remembered Tim Conway or Harvey Korman, so I broke out the YouTube, where I promptly fell down the rabbit hole and laughed hysterically for 2 hours.
Needless to say, I'm loving this audio so far - I've practically written my review already here. Anyone who thinks they might be interested, I urge you to consider the audiobook. Carol does it herself and she's BRILLIANT!